Now is the time when many new students are trying to find somewhere to live. This may be in short supply as much of the available accommodation will have been already taken up by existing students earlier in the year.
A perfect opportunity for the scammer. Action Fraud is reporting a big increase in the bogus property fraud.
What happens is that the scammer will advertise a completely false property – maybe on one of the big advertising sites (they can’t pick up all the fake properties).
- The property could be a real property which is already let
- or maybe a property which is not available for let at all
- Or a property which does not actually exist, at least in the location where it is advertised
The scammer will then tell interested students that there is a lot of demand for it and ask for a big deposit up front saying that it will go off the market if they don’t act fast.
Having collected a number of fees, the scammer will then fade away leaving the student bereft …
How to avoid being scammed:
- Only use reputable letting companies or landlords recommended by your student accommodation office
- Do some online research such as using Google maps to check the property does exist.
- Always view the property in person before paying over any money.
Mind you even viewing the property is not a complete protection as it is not unknown for scammers to get hold of the keys of empty properties.
Which is why the only real protection is to use a reputable company, particularly those recommended by your accommodation office.
If this is not possible (because it has all been let) be very wary about handing over money for properties you have not seen. Genuine landlords are more interested in getting good tenants than taking money from you quickly and will focus on getting references and background checks.
If you are worried have a word with your accommodation office who should be able to advise you.
You will also find details of other scams on my Landlord Law site here.
If you have been scammed call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online reporting tool.